A Memoir
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An entertaining if somewhat flawed look at how a middle-aged hobbyist finds new meaning in life through rebuilding a classic motorcycle. Haefele is a frustrated novelist and academic who works, albeit happily, as a tree surgeon. Deciding after visiting an annual motorcycle rally to invest in a vintage American-made Indian Chief motorcycle, he finds himself friends with bikers and other assorted characters whom he would normally avoid. In the end, he finds that he has much in common with these folks, even as he has managed to sell his first novel and, by book’s end, is back on the academic trail chasing down university jobs. Because of the setting (Montana) and motif (motorcycles), Haefele’s book is doomed to comparisons with Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. These similarities notwithstanding, Haefele is able to guard himself well from any influence anxiety, though in one particular scene where he uses beer can slivers as a maintenance tool, the similarity is a little too close. Haefele’s style is more relaxed and he isn—t, for the most part, prone to the didacticism that mires down Pirsig’s work. Unfortunately, the bottom begins to fall out when, for instance, the “naming ceremony” for his newborn daughter, Phoebe, is juxtaposed against the episode in which he names his motorcycle the “Millennium Flyer.” By the end, Haefele has dubbed his biker friend and tree-surgeon assistant Chaz the “mythical trickster” who has kept him going on his quest to rebuild his bike, and even more clumsily, he draws open comparisons between the clothes bought for his daughter and the parts bought to help build his cycle when most readers would catch the similarity on their own. These slips are not enough to ruin Rebuilding the Indian, though, which leaves one curious to see his forthcoming novel.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1998
ISBN: 1-57322-099-X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998


IndieThe Alternate Compass by Steve A. Anderson
by Steve A. Anderson